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Me diving

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Quick Trip to LA: UB88 and the Moody

We had a very quick trip to LA for Rob's birthday weekend.  Karl chartered a boat scheduled for that Saturday, so we drove down on Thursday night/Friday, went diving on Saturday, and then came home on Sunday.  In addition to the one day of diving, we managed to cram in some family visits as well.  Rob has wanted to drive the UB88 for quite some time, so Karl made that happen.  We brought Matt with us, and Karl brought Marc Hall, so we had two teams on the boat.  The boat was probably just a bit small for 5 people to comfortably dive (with tech gear), but it worked out fine, we just had to get into the water one team at a time.

For the first dive, we went to the UB88.  It was very calm on the water, but it was also very foggy.  Very Monterey-like.  We puttered out to the site pretty slowly, and then when we got there, we had to wait a bit for the fog to lift.  Because of the fog, I really had no idea where (on the coastline) we were.  After tripping over each other to get geared up, our team got into the water second, and found that there was super clear blue water on top.  The water got greener and murkier on the way down, however.  There was a layer of somewhat murkier water, starting maybe around 70 feet, which then cleared up again (maybe around 100 feet), but because of that, the water was darker on the bottom.  But it was pretty clear down there, just not bright and blue like it was up on top.

The wreck is pretty well intact, and VERY encrusted.  Large portions of the wreck are completely encrusted with corynactis and zoanthids, with a patch of yellow sponge here and there.  There were some areas with a lot of gorgonians too, the lanky spindly SoCal variety.  At the stern end, there were these enormous fishing nets draped over the wreck, which were very heavily encrusted with corynactis and metridiums.  This was the coolest part of the wreck, in my opinion.  It was like a curtain of corynactis that would flap around in the surge.  There were a fair number of fish on the wreck, including some big lingcod and vermilions, but I wouldn't say it was teeming with fish or anything.

Deco was quite warm (around 60 degrees), and it seemed like you could see forever in the viz in the shallows.  We were decoing on an anchor line, which is always a bit of a pain compared to drifting, and even though we had the whole big ocean to ourselves, with 5 people hanging at 20' at the same time, I felt like I was constantly kicking someone :P  When we got back to the surface, found the ladder/swimstep on the boat a bit difficult to negotiate.  Mostly because I picked a terrible way to get back onto the boat, which involved lots of bruises on my knees and shins.  However, I subsequently saw Karl and Marc climb the ladder, in a much less painful-looking way.

We debated whether or not to do another dive on the UB88 or to move to another wreck, and eventually we decided to check out the Moody for dive 2.  The Moody is broken in two pieces, which are relatively close to each other (close enough to visit both on one dive, I guess).  It is a bit shallower than the UB88 (in the 140ish range).

We got into the water first for this dive.  It was not as dark on the bottom here, but it was still quite green (and the green seemed to start a bit shallower).  The Moody was also fairly well encrusted, but it didn't seem quite as impressively so as the UB88.  That may have been because it had more variety of things growing on it though... it just wasn't wall-to-wall pink with corynactis.  But the really impressive thing was the fish life and the gorgonians.  There was a huge school of small (juvenile?) fish covering the wreck.  And one portion of the wreck (near the back) had this awesome "garden" of gorgonians, that looked very nice with all of the fish above it.  It would have made for a great video sequence, but rather annoyingly, I'd left my camera on in my pocket (or maybe it turned itself on) during the first dive, which had drained the battery.  So I barely got any footage on the second dive :(

I also noticed some little colorful fish, which made it seem more like SoCal diving than the UB88 had, which when I think back to it, seemed to mostly have critters that we have in Monterey too.  I also saw a couple of Chromodoris-type nudibranchs... I can never remember how to tell all of those guys apart, so I'm not going to venture a guess about what exactly I saw.

On the stern, there were more nets, though they were not as impressively encrusted either.  They did have a lot of corynactis on them, but not so much that you could barely see the nets (like on the UB88).  I saw two smallish rockfish which I think had to be tiger rockfish.  That's cool, since I've never seen a tiger rockfish (and had no idea that they were in range down there, but it seems that they are).  When I saw the second one, it was about to dart around one of the folds in a huge net that was hanging off the side of the stern.  Even though I sort of knew better, I swam closer to get more of a look at it, and not too surprisingly, I get snarled in the net.  I don't think I was actually tangled in the net, but rather in a line with a fishing weight that was hanging down from the net (and which I saw as I approached the fish, so I was practically expecting to get tangled in it).  As soon as I felt a small tug on my manifold, I knew I was entangled, and signaled to Rob, who signaled to Matt (since Rob's camera was unfurled, thus posing its own likelihood of being entangled).  After a moment of Matt thinking that I was posing for a picture for Rob, since you know, I was hanging there, very still, next to this really nicely encrusted net, he eventually came over and freed me.  Phew.

Deco was again pretty warm and uneventful.  When we surfaced, I decided to try my hand at the right way to climb out of the water, and it was quite straightforward and unpainful.  By this point in the day, the fog had completely lifted and it was quite warm and sunny on the way back in.  Overall, I'd say we picked a great day to come down and dive.

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